Wednesday, 3 July 2013

EDL March in Ashton-under-Lyne! Are Tameside Council censoring the local news?

FOUR people were arrested when the far-right group the English Defence League (EDL), marched through the streets of Ashton-under-Lyne, over two weeks ago.

This is the second time this year that the EDL have marched in Tameside. In February, around 600 hate-filled louts from the EDL, marched through Hyde after two white teenagers where attacked by Asian youths. Daniel Stringer-Prince, aged 17, sustained a fractured skull. Eleven people were arrested for minor public order offences following the demonstration.  Takeaway worker, Ali Haydor, aged 21, was subsequently jailed for two-years for assault.

Although the march that took place on 15 June, received some coverage in the local press, there was no explanation as to why the EDL had decided to march through Ashton-under-Lyne. According to a statements made by the EDL, they were responding to an alleged 'unprovoked attack' by two Asian youths on a group of white teenagers who were waiting at a local bus stop. A video that was put on facebook, which shows two Asian teenagers fighting with white youths, was later taken down. 

Although there was a heavy police presence in the town earlier in the week and the police were seen chasing youths through the streets of Ashton, Tameside Council denied there had been any disorder and issued  a statement on Twitter saying:
'Rumours circulating tonight about alleged fighting in Ashton  town centre. These reports are inaccurate, there has been no disorder'

When Northern Voices (NV) contacted Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for a comment, we were intially told that there had been no incident and that reports of an incident, had been an 'urban myth' put out on the social media. However, we were later told in a statement by the GMP:

'We are aware of the rumours on social media. A number of youths gathered in the town centre (Wed 12 June) but there was no disorder or violence. A small number of teenagers were arrested for minor public order offences. We believe this is linked to an incident that took place in Ashton on Saturday 8 June 2013, involving two groups of school children. A third party reported this to the police and they believed it to be racially motivated. A 14-year-old boy was arrested in connection with this and has been released on police bail. Enquries are ongoing and we will be speaking to both sets of youth to establish the circumstances that led up to the gathering.'

GMP told NV that over the next few evenings, there would be an increased police presence in Ashton town centre to reassure the public and to provide a deterrent to any potential trouble makers. GMP said that they believed the same individuals were responsible but both cases were isolated and added:
We take every allegation of racial abuse very seriously whether this comes from a third party or not, and this incident is no different. What is not clear is who racially abused who, if at all. Those arrested are from a range of community backgrounds and are all school children, none of who suffered any physical injury....'

In 2008, the satirical magazine 'Private Eye', in its column 'Rotten Boroughs', claimed that Tameside Council were censoring the local news and was holding regular meetings with newspaper editors through the 'Community Cohesion Parnership' to stop 'sensationalist reporting' that might add to rising community tensions. The source for this information was a document published by the Department of Communities and Local Government, (See NV10). Although Tameside Council denied that it censored media reports and claimed they were unable to confirm who wrote the report from Tameside, we wrote to the Department in October 2009. They confirmed that the information had been supplied by Tameside Council and had been written by Steven Pleasant, the then Assistant C.E.O. of Tameside Council, (See NV11).

Although this kind of cesnorship or news management may be being undertaken with the best of intentions, it nevertheless, sets a dangerous precedent in any democracy where the media is supposed to hold politicians to account. It  can also be counter productive by playing into the hands of groups on the far-right who claim that certain racial attacks are being covered up.

This Saturday a march is taking place in Ashton-under-Lyne organised by North West Infidels. Members of 'Unite Against Fascism' are meeting outside Ashton market hall at 11.30 am and have asked for supporters to bring placards and banners.

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